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Book Review: “Perplexity”, by Richard Powers

The central question of the novel is the same as that posed in “The Overstory” by Douggie Pavlicek, a Vietnam War veteran turned eco-warrior: [Expletive] Everything has gone wrong with humanity? “

The dialogue reminded me a lot of that in my favorite third grade novel, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach.

Robbie speaks in italics throughout, like he’s an oracle or, like the baby from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” », Imaginary. “Don’t worry, dad. We may not understand it. But Earth will, ”he says. And: “Spring will keep coming back, no matter what. Isn’t it, daddy? And: “New planet, dad. Please. “And,” There’s something wrong with us, daddy. “

Robin adds, M. Night Shyamalanishly: “Your wife loves you. Do you know this is true? “

Theo said to him, “People, Robbie. It is a questionable species. He thinks, “There was a planet that couldn’t know where everyone was. He died of loneliness. And, “Oh, this planet was a good planet. “

To be fair to Powers, he retains an ability to alchimize the weirdness of everyday global life – by paying a taxi driver, say: northern Sweden in the virtual hands of the taxi driver. But these moments are rare here.

There are books you want to give to your best friend; this one is for your distant aunt, for her reading group. It’s a James Taylor song when you need a buzz-saw guitar. There is no shamelessness, no spirit, no fire, and little floating understanding, despite ostentatious science, of how human minds actually work.

It’s a book about ecological salvation that kind of makes you want to give the back of your head a little nip for no good reason.

nytimes Gt